Newspaper Boys of Early 1900s

Little is known today about the life of those young boys in large cities who sold the daily newspaper on the street. This was not an after school job as it would become in the 1940s and beyond. At the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the young boys selling newspapers were termed ‘Newsies’. This was their life, usually not home to go to, no schooling, just survival on the streets.

The boys were contractors for the big newspaper companies. They had to find a method to make a living since most were orphans or had no family available. These boys – newsies – became the family for each boy in a neighborhood.

The deal was that each boy purchased a bundle of 100 newspapers, then sold them to the public for a penny a piece. Usually, the most a newsies would make was 15 to 35 cents a day. Many had to work well after nightfall to sell all their papers. The boys even had to fight with the newspaper companies when in late 1890s, the bundled cost of 100 newspaper went from 65 cents to 85 cents, so cutting their profit.

They let it be known of the lost of income to the public on the street and eventually got the companies to at least agree to buy back any unsold newspapers.

Eventually, child labor laws came about in the 1930s along with child-welfare laws, helping these young boys. This is why by the 1940s and beyond, being a newspaper was a lot easier and part-time job after school hours.

See if any of your ancestors were paperboys or even any papergirls.

Photos: Newsboys in Buffalo in 1910; Two young boys in 1910; a newspaper in 1912 about the Titanic; and a 6-year-old boy selling newspapers in CA in 1915.

Related Blogs:

Newspapers Across States

Details Found in Newspapers

Delivery of Telegrams

< Return To Blog This author needs to read "How the Other Half Lives" by Jacob A. Riss - particularly chapters 15-17.
Linda Morgan Clark 31/12/20

Riss wrote of the horrible living conditions in many New York City locations and neighborhoods in the 1890s. Riss and lived those times. Reforms in housing and working did start to come about with his book.
alice 31/12/20

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